Lessons Learned From a Master Sprinter – Tour de France

New York Times “Cycling”

Lessons Learned From a Master Sprinter

Published: July 12, 2011

PARIS — An easy stage Tuesday provided an opportunity for André Greipel, a burly German competing in his first Tour de France, to prove himself against a fierce rival.

Andre Greipel of Germany celebrated his victory as he cycled across the finish line to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France.

Andre Greipel of Germany celebrated his victory as he cycled across the finish line to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France.

Greipel, who rides with the Omega–Lotto team, edged Mark Cavendish, a wiry, combative Briton who had won two previous stages on this Tour, in a sprint to the finish. It was the first stage victory for Greipel, a former teammate of Cavendish, who rides for HTC-Highroad.

On the HTC team, Greipel had been an understudy to Cavendish, one of the greatest sprinters of recent years, and he clearly relished the chance to nip past his former teammate.

“It was a big success for me just to be able to take part in the race,” Greipel told reporters. “I’m really happy to have found a team that I could ride for in the Tour de France. Of course, I had my own ambitions here and I tried to win a stage and now I’ve managed that. I wanted to show myself and prove that I can be competitive in this race.”

The stage, from Aurillac in the Massif Central to Carmaux in the Tarn region, was short, at 158 kilometers, or 98 miles, and smooth, with only small climbs and on overall downhill profile. That appeared to suit the riders fine, after an opening week that was marked by tough stages on narrow roads in sometimes fierce weather, and marred by a number of serious falls.

Guillaume Horcajuelo/European Pressphoto Agency

On Tuesday, there was one sizable pileup, but it resulted in no big injuries. Thomas Voeckler, a Frenchman with the Europcar team, held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey, which he took over on Sunday.

The Tuesday stage followed a relatively turbulent “rest day” on Monday, which brought news of the first positive drug test of this year’s Tour. Alexandr Kolobnev, a Russian with the Katusha team, tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide in his urine, according to the International Cycling Union. The substance, a diuretic, is considered a masking agent for other drugs.

Kolobnev withdrew from the race but denied that he had been doping.

“Yesterday, during the rest day, it was reported the laboratories had found a substance, hydrochlorothiazide,” Kolobnev said in a statement. “I do not know where it comes from.”

On Tuesday, Johnny Hoogerland, the more seriously injured of two victims of a collision with a French television car on Sunday, was back in the race, despite 33 stitches in his legs, sustained when he landed on a barbed-wire fence.

“Today I felt better on the bike than I felt in bed or walking,” he said. “It was a lot of adrenaline that got me through the day, I think.”

Hoogerland, of the Vacansoleil team, finished the stage nearly six minutes behind Greipel, but that was ahead of a final group of stragglers another minute back. Hoogerland even managed to defend the red-and-white polka-dot jersey, held by the leading climber on the Tour, with some help from a teammate, Marco Marcato.

With Hoogerland slowed by his injuries, Marcato raced ahead Tuesday to collect the maximum points on several modest climbs, thereby preventing other riders from picking them up and challenging Hoogerland for the jersey.

On Wednesday, a similar stage is on tap, from Blaye-Les-Mines to Lavaur, near Toulouse. At only 167.5 kilometers, it, too, is relatively short and relatively flat. That means Voeckler has a good chance of holding on to the yellow jersey for another stage — meaning that a Frenchman would be wearing it on Bastille Day, Thursday.

After that, the serious business of determining the overall winner of the Tour will get under way, with three tough stages set for the Pyrenees, on Thursday through Saturday.

Among the favorites, including the defending champion, Alberto Contador; the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank; and Cadel Evans, the runner-up in 2007, there has been little movement since the opening day. Evans, an Australian with the BMC team, is in the best position, in third place overall, with a margin of 1 minute 43 seconds over Contador.

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No doping evidence found

A French official said Monday that the police had not found evidence of doping in a search of Alexandr Kolobnev’s hotel room, The Associated Press reported from Aurillac, France.

Jean-Pascal Violet, the public prosecutor for the town of Aurillac, said he had opened an investigation in connection with Kolobnev’s failed Tour de France doping test.

Katusha’s manager, Andrei Tchmil, said Kolobnev had been temporarily suspended until the team receives the results of his “B” sample analysis.

“We need to take into account a lot of things, then we’ll look at the rules,” Tchmil said Tuesday. “He is claiming his innocence and says he can’t give any explanation for his positive test. Of course we were surprised.”

The Tour director, Christian Prudhomme, expressed satisfaction with the fight against doping at the race by French anti-doping officials and the International Cycling Union.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 13, 2011

An earlier version of this article misidentified Cadel Evans as the Tour de France runner-up last year. Andy Schleck finished in second place last year; Evans was second in 2007.

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